ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is backing Nancy Pelosi to once again lead Democrats and the House of Representatives as Speaker of the House.

The St. Petersburg Democrat told the Tampa Bay Times in a statement Monday that Pelosi possessed the "ability, drive and experience to do it best."

"Leader Pelosi's pledge to be a transitional leader for House Democrats, focused not only on our legislative agenda, but on ushering and mentoring our next generation of leaders to carry our efforts forward for the longer run, is also a prudent and wise approach," Crist said.

Crist, who won re-election last week, declined to support Pelosi's bid for another run at the speakership during his campaign, though he didn't rule it out.

"Before that's an issue, we have to win back the majority," Crist told the Times in September.

Pelosi became the first and only female speaker in U.S. history when she held the title from 2007 to 2011. Following a tea party-backed Republican wave election in 2010, the GOP assumed control of the House, and Pelosi continued to run the Democratic caucus as minority leader.

While currently unopposed, the San Francisco politician faces skepticism from within Democratic ranks about anointing her to the top post once again. Some Democrats ran for election this year on the promise to vote for new leadership and not Pelosi.

Three of the four Democrats who ran against Republicans in local Congressional races — David Shapiro, Chris Hunter and Kristen Carlson — all said they would back a leader other than Pelosi for speaker of the House of Representatives should their party win a majority in the chamber this November. None of them won last Tuesday.

Democrats picked up 29 seats elsewhere on Election Day to gain back control of the House. Crist, the former Florida governor, won a second term in Congress by securing 57 percent of the vote over Republican George Buck.

Here is Crist's full statement:

"House Democrats will decide in the coming weeks who is best positioned to lead the majority in the new 116th Congress. Our caucus requires unity and strength to make good on our promises to the American people, to fix healthcare and protect those with pre-existing conditions, cleanup Washington, create jobs with an infrastructure package, pass common sense gun safety measures and serve as an appropriate check and balance on the administration.

"The person with the ability, drive and experience to do it best is the dynamic woman who led us to this historic opportunity.

"Leader Pelosi's pledge to be a transitional leader for House Democrats, focused not only on our legislative agenda, but on ushering and mentoring our next generation of leaders to carry our efforts forward for the longer run, is also a prudent and wise approach.

"I look forward to supporting and working with her to begin making good on our 'For the People' agenda when we return to Washington tomorrow."